2 more held in surrogacy ring

2 more held in surrogacy ring

Suspects worked as brokers to lure 'wombs for hire'

Police from the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division have arrested two more suspects in an illegal transnational commercial surrogacy ring, police said on Saturday.

Kulisara Pomdet, 43, was arrested in Chanthaburi and Jakkarat Kittiwanichkul, 60, was nabbed in Chiang Mai on Friday night. Police said the pair were hired by the ring to work as brokers to lure Thai women to work as surrogate mothers. The pair were charged with complicity in transnational criminal activities and illegal commercial surrogacy.

According to police, Mr Jakkarat can speak the languages of neighbouring countries and served as a translator for Ms Kulisara during trips to those countries. A police source said the pair had been back and forth between Thailand and Cambodia more than 100 times during the past two years.

On Thursday, nine suspects -- seven Thais and two Chinese nationals -- were arrested in joint raids carried out in Bangkok, Pathum Thani and Sukhothai. They face charges of colluding in transnational criminal activities and engaging in commercial surrogacy, which is illegal under Thai law. The raids came after police found a gang of Chinese nationals was hiring Thai women as surrogate mothers.

The illegal surrogacy operation is believed to have started in 2012. At least 100 women across the country had been hired as surrogate mothers, according to police. Police discovered the surrogacy syndicate was run by Chinese people who hired Thai brokers to lure Thai women to work as surrogate mothers for 300,000-450,000 baht per pregnancy.

The surrogate mothers travelled to neighbouring countries for assisted reproductive treatment and returned to Thailand where they stayed until delivery. In some cases, the surrogate mothers were sent to China, where they stayed until they gave birth.

Pol Maj Gen Torsak Sukvimol, deputy commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), said the probe followed a tip-off from the Department of Health Service Support. Investigators had earlier questioned women in Pathum Thani hired as surrogates and found that 15 babies born from assisted reproductive technologies were included in their household registration. The probe also found that at least 50 babies from surrogate mothers had been taken out of the country. Assets seized from the nine included 16 vehicles with a combined value of 15 million baht, a house and a company in Lat Phrao worth about 20 million baht.

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